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What to expect when hiring an architect

When selecting an architect, it is important to interview several experienced in working with congregations and renovating existing structures.  You may be able to obtain names and numbers of qualified professionals by contacting you local AIA chapter.  Ask members of other congregations if they might make recommendations.  Once you meet with several architects, ask each to see their work.  Learn what the challenges of the design and budget faced them and ask how the resolved these issues.

When describing your scope of work – whether construction a new synagogue complex or renovating a small chapel – don’t limit the conversation to the scope of work, have an honest and open discussion regarding budgets.

If you don’t discuss money – the architect will design just what he or she is instructed to design – you just might not be able to afford building it.  Let all parties concerned know the amount of money you can spend on the project including contingencies.  Many believe that because they are building a House of Worship, the Lord will provide. It is imperative that both you and your architect have a realistic appreciation of your budget constraints.

In order to remain within the budget, the architect may need to divide the project into multiple phases that can be completed after additional funds have been raised.  This is called “phasing a project” and is a common practice when working around constraints.

Your architect may complete all of the following scopes of work or just a few – it is really up to what you and the architecture firm can agree on.

1.   Preliminary Design Phase – Understanding the site and design concepts that the client requires.

2.   Design Development Phase – Creation of multiple versions of drawings for client approval.

3.   Contract document Phase – The production of detailed work drawings and written specifications.

4.   The Bidding and Contract Phase – Administrating the bidding phase and contract negotiations with the various contractors and subcontractors.

5.   Administration – The architect monitors the work for compliance with the contract specifications. Verify progress payments applications; attend progress meetings helps to represent the synagogue in obtaining the best quality workmanship and materials.

It is important that you discover if there is “chemistry” between the architect and your building committee.  During the construction phase of the project, the architect will be speaking on the congregation’s behalf, so it is important that you have a good rapport with the architect.

Interviewing the architect: What to ask?

Twenty questions from the American Institute of Architects to ask before you hire your architect:

1.   What do you see as important issues or considerations in the project.  What are the challenges of the project?

2.   How will you approach the project?

3.   How will you gather information about such things as needs and goals?

4.   How will you establish priorities and make decisions?

5.   With whom for the architecture firm will I (or the committee) be dealing directly?

6.   How interested are you in this project?

7.   How busy are you?

8.   What sets you apart from other architects?

9.   How do you establish fees?

10.    What would you expect the fee to be for this project?

11.    What are the steps of the design process?

12.    How do you organize the design and construction process?

13.    What do you expect me (or the committee) to provide?

14.    What is you philosophy about synagogue architecture?

15.    What is your experience/track record with cost estimating?

16.    What will you show me along the way to explain the project?

17.    If the scope of the project changes later in the project, will there be additional fees?

18.    What services do you provide during construction?

19.    What is your experience with projects similar to this?

20.    Do you have a list of past clients whom I can contact?